Optimal - The Blog

November 17, 2023

The Couch Potato Fitness System.™ It sounds too good to be good.

Who doesn’t feel like a couch potato sometimes?

Sometimes, it feels good.

Other times, it feels like a guilty pleasure turned into a guilt trip.

It is possible to “couch potato out” and stay healthy if you can incorporate a few subtle moves into your daily routine.

This breaks up the long stretches of being sedentary, which can lead to chronic disease and even death (Harvard 2013). Exercise can also boost your mood and have a distinct anti-depressant effect.

Here are some quick tips to incorporate into your daily routine, as long as your current state of health allows it. Check with your healthcare practitioner to be sure:

  • Stretch and exercise during commercial breaks:
    • Pull both knees into your chest while lying down and bring your forehead or chin up to meet your knees. Repeat one leg at a time, then pull both knees in and release. Repeat as able.
    • Press or “walk your feet into the couch cushion while lying down…be sure to tighten your buttocks and quadriceps to work those large muscles. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to 30 minutes.
  • Do mini crunches while lying on the couch…try one crunch per second and work your way up to 60 crunches per minute and beyond.
  • Stand up and sit back down from the couch or chair at least 10 times in a row.
    • This can even increase your heart rate and give you a mini cardiac workout.
  • Do shallow squats while brushing your teeth…
    • You’ll be surprised how quickly you can feel this one!
    • Be sure to tighten your buttocks and quadriceps as you squat, and don’t overextend your knees. Holding onto a doorjamb can help!
  • Keep 3–5-pound dumbbells (or heavier if you are conditioned) by the bedside, couch, or chair, and work your way up from 3-5 reps to 10-15 or more per session.
    • If you don’t have dumbbells, you can improvise using canned goods or even a half gallon (4 pounds) or a whole gallon of water (8 pounds).
  • Try doing mini crunches before getting out of bed for the day.
    • Remember, 1 crunch per second leads to 60 crunches per minute, which leads to 600 crunches in 10 minutes (!), eventually 😊
    • You can listen to music or the daily news as you rev up your body and mind for the day.
  • Stretch, stretch, stretch.
    • Incorporating a gentle stretch routine into your day can increase flexibility and range of motion and decrease injury risk.
    • Start slowly and gently and work up to a whole body routine.
  • Walk, walk, walk.
    • Be sure to get up and take a brisk walk around at least every 30 minutes, especially if you have a “sit down” job.
    • If possible, walk for at least 20 minutes after meals to feed your muscles directly and help control your blood glucose.
    • If you want to lose a few pounds, extend your walk to 45-60 minutes to burn stored fat. You can talk with a friend, listen to books on tape, listen to music, or spend some time alone with your thoughts.
    • Walk to the store or a friend’s whenever possible.
  • Cycling can be an easy and fun way to incorporate some activity into your daily routine.
    • Bicycling outside is ideal and can help you use different muscles to balance and propel yourself forward.
    • Bicycle to the store whenever it is safe to do so.
    • However, if outside bicycling is unavailable, an indoor stationary bike or mini pedal exerciser can be used while watching TV or sitting at your desk. Something is always better than nothing!
  • Gardening and household chores count as well… try sweeping, mopping, and washing dishes and clothes by hand… every little bit counts
  • If you have stairs in the house, go up and down at least twice each time you need to take them.
  • Be creative and incorporate extra activities into your routine; you’ll find that you can be a Fit Couch Potato!
  • Generally, having a fitness professional check your form and provide tips for starting a new fitness routine to reduce the risk of injury is best.

Want to learn more?

Being Sedentary Leads to Chronic Disease.

Exercise Reduces Your Risk of Chronic Disease...But You Knew That!

How Prescribing Exercise from a Functional Medicine Perspective Affects Blood Chemistry Results.

PROOF: Modification of Health Behaviors Reduces Chronic Disease Risk

Walk Your Way Away From Diabetes.

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FitBit. You’re Never Too Old” A Fitness Plan for Middle-Aged Couch Potatoes. March 27, 2018. https://blog.fitbit.com/couch-potatoes/

Harvard Health. Easy exercises for couch potatoes. December 1, 2013. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/easy-exercises-for-couch-potatoes

Migliaccio, A.J. Fitness and Expectations. A pep talk and easy exercise program to help you feel better, inside and out. 2003.

NPR. From Couch Potato to Fitness Buff: How I Learned to Love Exercise. January 14, 2019. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/01/14/684118974/from-couch-potato-to-fitness-buff-how-i-learned-to-love-exercise

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. Always check with your healthcare practitioner before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.

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